It has been a historic week with the announcement of Kamala D. Harris as the first black woman nominee for vice president. Pundits and political experts alike will, without doubt, parse through her record from her time working as DA of San Francisco and Attorney General of California as well as serving in the United States Senate. One thing is clear: Senator Harris has worked tirelessly on maternal health issues as it pertains to black women who are three times more likely than white women to die due to pregnancy and delivery complications.
Harris joined forces with Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) and Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) to introduce the Black Maternal Health Momnibus, a series of nine bills that take racial disparities out of the maternal health outcomes, funds communty-based maternal health organizations, improve data collection, and invests in digital health tools among other pertinent issues.
In February of this year, Harris convened a Black Maternal Health Roundtable where women recounted their experiences with health care providers during their pregnancies and experts discussed racial disparities in maternal health care.
In addition to the Momnibus, Harris reintroduced the Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies (Maternal CARE) Act last year that allotted $25 million to fight racial bias in maternal health care and $125 million to identify high-risk pregnancies.
“Black mothers across the country are facing a health crisis that is driven in part by implicit bias in our health care system. We must take action to address this issue, and we must do it with the sense of urgency it deserves,” said Harris in a press release. “My Maternal CARE Act will establish implicit bias training throughout the medical profession and help ensure that women—especially Black women—have access to comprehensive, culturally competent care.”
And just this week, Harris joined Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Lauren Underwood (D-IL), along with Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Tina Smith (D-MN), in introducing the Maternal Health Pandemic Response Act of 2020. The Act intends to allocate emergency funding to the Centers for Disease Control for data collection on maternal health outcomes due to and during the COVID-19 pandemic months. Additionally, the Act provides funding to the CDC and NIH for research to mitigate the effects of COVID- 19 on pregnancies and to provide adequate communications to pregnant women about how to ensure safe pregnancies and deliveries during the pandemic. Most importantly, the Act requires that as vaccines are being created for COVID that a version is suitable for pregnant and lactating women.
With Kamala Harris now firmly rooted in the national conversation even more now than when she ran for President, it is more likely that Harris will continue to fight for black maternal health and bring on even more voices to get legislation passed.
Art by Uzuri Art